13 Secret Ingredients You Should Be Adding To Your Canned Spinach

Many people prefer to buy spinach raw or frozen because the canned stuff is mushy and has a slightly different taste. In fact, canned spinach can be quite polarizing. When we asked a chef, green vegetables are a canned ingredient they won't even buy. Even so, canned spinach can actually be quite delicious if you add the right seasonings and spices. The best canned spinach flavor boosters may not be super noticeable at first glance, but when used correctly, they make a world of difference. Then, you can add your spinach to a broad range of recipes or serve it as a simple side dish, and it's possible no one will even know it came from a can.

We combed through popular recipes online, Reddit forums, food blogs, and more to determine 13 flavor-enhancing secret ingredients you should be adding to your canned spinach. Keep reading to learn what we discovered so that the next time you're wondering how to turn a can of spinach into a delightful dish, you know exactly what ingredients to turn to for help.

Spicy peppers

Hot peppers are one of the best flavor boosters around, regardless of what you're cooking. Of course, you have to be partial to spicy foods, but if you are, hot peppers are here for the win when it comes to transforming canned spinach into a dish bursting with complex flavors. Best of all, spicy peppers come in a wide range of varieties and all different forms, so they are incredibly simple to add to any creation, canned spinach included. In addition, you probably have at least one type of hot pepper on your spice rack already, making this secret ingredient addition even easier to execute.

You can quickly add heat to canned spinach dishes with dried ingredients like chili powder, cayenne pepper, or red chili flakes. While all of these work wonders on the flavor of canned spinach, they won't do anything for the texture. However, integrating fresh, diced peppers will. Anything from habaneros to jalapeños to hatch green chiles contributes a crunchy texture that helps detract from the mushy consistency of canned spinach. Even if you use canned spicy peppers instead of fresh ones, this secret ingredient addition is a must-try. Unless, of course, you are preparing it for kids or someone sensitive to heat.

Cream cheese

Cream cheese is the quickest and easiest way to make creamed spinach. Some recipes call for heavy cream and grated cheese, but cream cheese streamlines the process and leads to surprisingly flavorful results with minimal effort. All you have to do is stir a few spoonfuls of cream cheese into canned spinach while it cooks, and it creates a delectable texture and flavor. You don't have to stick to plain cream cheese, either. Plenty of cream cheese flavors taste amazing when mixed into canned spinach, like garlic, onion, and herb cream cheese. Feel free to play around. Just consider what else you'll be serving it with so everything melds together nicely, and you should be all set.

Creamed spinach is delicious all by itself as a side dish and it easily complements a plethora of other dishes like meat, fish, and more. However, if you want to take creamed spinach to the next level, it can also be used in quite a few recipes. Some of our favorites include spinach-artichoke scalloped potatoes and eggplant Parmesan with creamed spinach. If you're looking to add some greens to your breakfast, creamed spinach also goes great with eggs and toast.

Red or white wine vinegar

According to a Reddit forum, red and white wine vinegar make wonderful additions to canned spinach. They add a unique, intense flavor and lots of depth overall. Still, a touch of vinegar goes a long way, so add it sparingly. You can always add more; just go slow and taste it along the way. If you go too far, vinegar can quickly overpower the spinach. You want the vinegar to enhance flavor, not become the only thing you taste.

In addition to red and white wine vinegar, apple cider and rice vinegar make nice additions to canned spinach. With this in mind, use whatever you happen to have in your pantry. There's no need to buy a specific type of vinegar. You can if you want, but if you aren't sure how else you'll use it, just start with what's on hand. Then, if you enjoy the change it brings to canned spinach (which is likely), you can branch out and explore various kinds of vinegar.


Admittedly, we believe garlic makes everything taste better, from pizza to vegetables to fermented garlic honey. Canned spinach is another perfect example of how garlic is the ultimate secret ingredient addition. It may not change the texture of canned spinach, but the potent bitter, buttery aroma and taste pack it with tons of umami flavor. Whether you're incorporating it into Mexican, Asian, Indian, or Italian cuisine, garlic gives canned spinach exactly what it needs to shine in any dish. It also makes a yummy, simple, sautéed spinach side dish.

To achieve a rich garlic taste in your canned spinach, sauté it with fresh diced or grated cloves. Fresh garlic has a much stronger flavor and aroma than dried garlic. Or, for a sweeter, caramelized flavor, try using roasted garlic. Roasting it will take a bit of extra time, but the scrumptious results are more than worth the wait. Dried powdered garlic from your spice rack also tastes amazing when sprinkled on canned spinach, but it doesn't pack nearly the same punch flavor-wise. Still, if it is all you have readily available, don't underestimate its ability to enhance your canned spinach.

Balsamic vinegar

You've most likely had spinach with balsamic vinegar before in a salad. Just like its fresh counterpart, canned spinach pairs well with balsamic vinegar. Similar to other types of vinegar, balsamic vinegar adds a potent, delicious flavor to canned spinach. However, unlike the other styles, balsamic vinegar has a sweet element that makes it a phenomenal choice for lifting the heavy, earthy taste of canned spinach.

Mix a small amount of balsamic reduction into your canned spinach for an even sweeter flavor infusion. It won't add as much liquid as the straight-up stuff, but the caramelized, reduced texture adds a mouth-watering flavor that complements cuts of meat, Italian cuisine, and much more. 

Regardless of whether you use balsamic vinegar or a reduction, you don't need a lot to make a noticeable difference in any dish, and canned spinach is no exception to the rule. Add it slowly and taste as you go to avoid overdoing it. If you do, it'll be a hard mistake to bounce back from.

Bacon grease

As the saying goes, bacon makes everything better. True to its reputation, canned spinach has the potential to become mind-blowingly flavorful with help from a bit of bacon grease. You don't even need to add the bacon itself; all you need is the grease. Of course, bacon pieces wouldn't hurt, but if you want to secretly infuse canned spinach with bacon flavor, grease is the solution. It adds tons of smokey, fatty goodness but doesn't take over entirely.

When making a basic spinach side dish, bacon fat has just what you need to hide the canned flavor that some people find overbearing. You can also use this method to make a world of other recipes. Still, we wouldn't be surprised if the simple addition of bacon grease is more than enough to make you start devouring canned spinach like Popeye himself.

As you know, bacon grease isn't really considered healthy. Even so, if you want to indulge, there's really no other fat that infuses as much flavor into canned spinach. Butter comes close, but it lacks smokiness and doesn't have nearly as complex of a taste, so it blends in quite a bit more. Plus, cooking your canned spinach in bacon grease is a fantastic way to prevent simply tossing all the deep flavor into the garbage. Why waste it?

Soy sauce

Soy sauce is a surefire way to boost umami flavor in canned spinach dishes. It also lends sweet and salty elements, plus a hint of bitterness to the mix. The result is a complex and delicious combination you have to try. The intensity and bite of the flavors won't go unnoticed, and you don't need much to get the job done.

Pairing spinach and soy sauce is nothing new, as is evident by all the ways it is used in Asian cuisine. You'll find them in anything from lo mein to stir fry to ramen because of how delicious the flavors pair with each other. In fact, spinach is one of the canned ingredients that takes ramen to the next level, and if you add shoyu broth, you get a perfect example of how delicious these ingredients taste together.

Canned spinach and soy sauce also go spectacularly well with salmon, steak, chicken, and an array of other vegetables. Even if you're just heating up canned spinach as a side dish, soy sauce and maybe some garlic or onion are all you need to make it worth asking for seconds.

Lemon juice

A few squeezes of lemon juice are a fantastic secret ingredient addition for canned spinach. Instead of leading to a sour taste, like if you drank pure lemon juice, the taste brightens the flavor of canned spinach and adds an acidic element. Lemon juice also has a pleasing aroma that further enhances canned spinach by making it shine and drawing you in before you even get a taste.

If you prefer a brighter flavor, and canned spinach seems a bit earthy for your preferences, lemon juice may be just the thing to change your mind. Reddit users also love adding a touch of lemon juice to canned spinach. A couple of commenters mentioned adding garlic and black pepper as well and cooking it all together in butter. Then, you can serve it alongside other vegetables, meat, or seafood. This same collection of ingredients can be found in more elaborate dishes like salmon and spinach crêpes, so you know they will taste incredible no matter how you serve them.


Adding nutmeg to canned spinach is another suggestion we found on Reddit. The commenter claims just a pinch is all you need. As you probably know, nutmeg has a nutty flavor. It is the perfect spice for baked goods and pancakes, but it also excels when it comes to enhancing the flavor of savory ingredients like canned spinach. It's quick, easy, and blends in with ease. Nutmeg also has a slightly sweet taste that balances out the bitterness of canned spinach.

For the simplest application, you can easily add a dash of nutmeg to canned spinach and serve it as a side dish. Or, you can toss it into a blender with various fruits or berries and make a healthy smoothie. You'll also find nutmeg and spinach in more creative recipes like creamed spinach and kale with fried egg, which is perfect for breakfast. Or, in salmon and spinach pie, which is tasty any time of the day. As you can see, the possibilities are practically limitless, so get creative.


Paprika is dried red pepper ground into a convenient spice. It is much sweeter and milder than chili powder or cayenne pepper but has some of the same savory, peppery elements that taste delicious when paired with canned spinach. Depending on what type of paprika you use, it can also add a nice smoky flavor to canned spinach. It's not nearly as smoky as bacon, but it is approved for plant-based diets, making it a crowd-pleasing ingredient addition all around. Aside from garlic and lemon juice, paprika is one of my favorite ingredients to mix into canned spinach. It's subtle, but not so much that it goes unnoticed.

As always, you can use paprika in a simple canned spinach side dish, but it also goes great with a world of recipes. The duo tastes incredible paired with eggs, regardless of how you prepare them. You could add it to an eggs benedict or make an eggs florentine breakfast sandwich. Another yummy breakfast dish, Israeli shakshuka, includes cooked spinach, paprika, tomatoes, eggs, and more sautéed together in a single pan. Whether you want to go the easy route or try a more elaborate recipe, adding paprika to canned spinach is a fantastic choice.

Browned butter

Butter and canned spinach are a no-brainer. Not only does the butter work as a pan lubricant when you heat the spinach, but it is a well-loved, delectable fat whose flavor lends itself beautifully to just about anything you can think of. If you take the extra time to make a brown butter sauce before adding the canned spinach, the flavor only gets better.

Browned butter sauce features toasted, nutty elements that boost the earthy flavors of canned spinach to perfection. You don't need anything other than a few extra minutes to turn regular butter into a browned butter sauce, either. Just put butter in a pan, wait for it to melt, and whisk it until you notice a shift in aroma and color. Then, toss your canned spinach in, stir, and season however you like.

When you cook canned spinach in butter, it also develops a slightly creamy element. It is not as creamy as milk or cheese, so you won't wind up with anything close to creamed spinach, but butter adds some similar characteristics that your taste buds are sure to love. Obviously, this secret ingredient addition isn't for vegans, so don't accidentally serve it to an unsuspecting one.


Depending on which form you use, onion may not be a secret ingredient, but it is incredibly delicious all the same. From powder to minced to diced to caramelized, you can't go wrong with onion and canned spinach. Even crispy fried onions would taste amazing sprinkled on top of canned spinach. Regardless of which type of onion you add to canned spinach, expect an instant infusion of sweet, tangy, umami flavor.

For the most effortless onion addition, simply sprinkle a generous amount of onion powder into your canned spinach while it heats up and stir. Powdered onion won't contribute nearly as much flavor as diced or caramelized onion, but it is as easy as opening a spice jar and shaking, so it has some obvious benefits.

If you prefer a more potent onion taste, stir-frying canned spinach with diced or caramelized onions is the way to go. Cooking fresh onions also adds a nice crunchy texture to canned spinach. Caramelizing onions does take some time, about 45 minutes, but they have a rich, unique flavor that is undeniably drool-worthy. When you combine caramelized onions with canned spinach, they instantly elevate it by infusing an otherwise basic ingredient with a gourmet flavor. Yum!

Parmesan or feta cheese

We probably don't have to tell you, but cheese is one of those magic ingredients that tastes incredible on just about everything. In the United States, you'll even find it melted on apple pie. So, it's no surprise cheese also adds flavor and is delicious paired with canned spinach. In particular, Parmesan and feta cheese are super yummy stirred into canned spinach. They make stringy cooked spinach creamy and bring all the pieces together to make a delectable texture. Even if you only sprinkle one of the cheeses on top of canned spinach, it leads to deliciously improved flavor.

A side of creamy canned spinach with feta or Parmesan cheese is great as a quick and easy side dish. However, it only gets better when you add other ingredients, like artichokes. This dynamic trio is super yummy in spinach artichoke balls or made into a dip. Parmesan cheese grits with spinach and shrimp is another fantastic flavor and ingredient combination that can easily be made with canned spinach.

Just like Parmesan cheese, spinach and feta are included in an abundance of tasty recipes that are only made easier when you opt to use canned spinach. For an excellent appetizer, try spinach and feta potato skins. Or, to incorporate the flavors into your main course, spinach and feta balls for spaghetti are sure to win you over.